If the scale isn’t budging, maybe it’s time to stop feeding your anxiety and start learning to relax.
With the most festive time of the year rapidly approaching, chances are you’re juggling deadlines, orchestrating travel plans and updating your holiday card list. Meanwhile, there are treats everywhere, and you willpower is sure to dwindle as you flit between family feasts and cocktail parties. It’s enough to make you frantic – and, well, fat.
There’s no question that you consume more when you’re under pressure. And, thanks to spikes in hormones like cortisol and insulin, research shows you also crave higher-cal foods. What’s more, your emotional state while eating may determine whether – and where – calories get stored as fat. “When your body feels threatened, it stashes fuel in your abdomen, where it can be accessed quickly”. Unfortunately, that area is one of the most stubborn when it comes to shedding fat.3
But you can make it through the season without pulling your hair out or having to buy bigger clothes.
Carving out time for hobbies you enjoy, like knitting, can reduce stress hormones and increase feel-good endorphins.
Simply focus on squelching stress, and then enjoy weight loss as a happy by-product. try one of these easy, calm – inducing strategies each day until you find your faves. A month from now you’ll be more centered and slender – no calorie counting required.
- Watch Comedy Clips On YouTube : You’re not procrastinating – you’re simply boosting your mood. Smiling is an instant stress-buster, according to a study recently published in Psychological Science.
- Refill Your Water Bottle : Load up on calorie-free H2O. Women who are dehydrated are more tired and have less energy, which makes everything seem more overwhelming, found a recent study from the Journal of Nutrition.
- Curl Up With A Book : Six minutes could be all it takes to curb that frenzied feeling by 60 percent. (If you have time to spare, feel free to turn the pages longer!) So catch up on your overdue Hunger Games reading – even if you have to do it one chapter at a time.
- Stand Tall : “When you maintain an open stance, you feel more confident and levels of the stress hormone cortisol decrease”. Bonus: You’ll look thinner instantly!
- Hop In The Shower : Hot baths have a soothing rep, but a survey revealed that showering does the job too, washing away tension for 72 percent of women. For extra ahh, place a few drops of jasmine or lavender essential oil on the shower floor and breathe deeply as the scented steam rises. When you do have time to fill the tub, try Aveda Stress-Fix Soaking Salts, which contain calming lavender and clary sage.
- Pop Some Omega-3S : People who took these supplements daily for 12 weeks reported that their anxiety levels dropped by 20 percent, according to scientists at the Ohio State University in Columbus.
- Cook Like A Zen Master : Make prepping for Thanksgiving – or any meal – a little less hectic by using it as an opportunity to do a mini-meditation: Slow down and pay attention to the scents of fresh herbs and sauteing garlic, the bright color of bell peppers, and the way a sharp knife feels in your hand as it slices through an onion.
- Engage In “Healthy” Gossip : There’s no need to bad-mouth your inappropriately dressed coworker. But if you see someone acting selfishly or exploiting people, feel free to pass it on. If you speak up to protect others, it can actually help lower your heart rate, according to a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
- Head Outdoors : Burn calories while you chill out. A new study found that going for a 20-minute alfresco stroll twice a week was more restorative than getting the same exercise in an indoor environment (like the mall).
- Befriend Fido : Any animal can provide comfort, but dogs seem to be most beneficial, probably because canine masters get more exercise in addition to the cuddling and bonding. Pet-less? Volunteer at an animal shelter or offer to take your friend’s dog for a walk.
- Take A Breather : With your eyes open or closed, take slow, deep breaths, counting one for inhale, one for exhale, continuing for a full minute; repeat as necessary. “This focus will calm your nervous system”.
- Call Your Mom : Feeling nostalgic? Instead of making the mac ‘n’ cheese she cooked for as a kid, pick up the phone. Research shows that just hearing your mother’s voice can lower level of cortisol and trigger the release of oxytocin, a hormone associated with positive feelings.
- Cultivate Gratefulness : Start each day by remembering any experience that recently made you happy – the birthday card you got from an old friend, the compliment your colleague gave you, or the tasty new recipe you cooked for dinner. “When negative events happen, people who regularly practice gratitude cope more positively”. “They’re less likely to run away from the problem or pretend that it’s not happening.”
- Blow Some Bubbles : People who chewed gum scored lower on tests measuring depression and mental fatigue (both are associated with stress).
- Get Crafty : Carving out some time for hobbies you enjoy – whether it’s knitting, drawing, or collating decorating ideas on Pinterest – can reduce stress hormones and increase feel-good endorphins.
- Brew Some Hot Tea : Drinking warm beverages forces you to slow down for a moment (lest you scald yourself!). While you’re at it, add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. It contains linalool, a compound shown to strengthen the immune system against stress.
- Hide Your Smartphone : Yes, it helps you feel connected, but compulsively checking emails and texts can also be anxiety-producing. If you’ve been using it for a solid hour, take a 15-minute reprieve.
- Take Chamomile Capsules : Even if you’re not a fan of herbal tea, you can reap the benefits of this calming plant by swallowing it in pill form. Research found that people with generalized anxiety disorder felt more relaxed after taking 1,000 milligrams of chamomile extract daily for eight weeks. You can find it in health food stores.
- Roll With It : Running a tennis ball up and won your arms and legs approximates getting a moderate – pressure massage, which reduces stress hormones. (Of course, if you are able to snag a Groupon for a Swedish rubdown, that’s even better.)
- Use Your Non-Dominant Hand : (Your left hand if you’re a rightly, or vice versa.) People who did this for simple tasks – brushing teeth, for example, or stirring soup in a pot – over a two-week period felt calmer during anger-provoking situations, reported a study in the Journal of Research in Personality. Switching sides requires you to break a habit which is an act of self-control, the authors explain. When you practice this in one area of your life, it has a positive effect on others, so you’ll be better able to manage your emotions.
- Hang In There : A forward bend decompresses the spine and improves circulation, releasing tension from your upper body and mind : Yoga for Energy and Relaxation DVD. Stand with knees slightly and fold body forward. Grasp opposite elbows and let your head drop; hold for one minute.
- Say Cheese : Rough day? Rather than reaching for a bag of fatty, salty chips, go for a piece of cheese and some fruit or a glass of milk. “Dairy contains tryptophan, which your body needs to make the pleasure-promoting hormone serotonin.”
- Tense And Release : After your muscles contract, they’re able to relax more fully. Start by taking a few deep breaths. On the third inhale, contract your right arm as tightly as you can, holding for two or three seconds. As you exhale, relax completely and let your arm drop while telling yourself, “I am at peace.” Repeat with your other arm, your legs, then your entire body.
- Nap On It : Adults who slept 45 minutes or more during the day had lower blood pressure and heart rate after completing a stressful mental task than people who got less or no daytime shut-eye. “You perceive your environment to be less threatening when you’re better rested”. Ample sleep is also crucial for regulating hunger hormones like ghrelin and leptin. Not a napper? Try getting to bed 45 minutes earlier.
- Say Yes To Chocolate : Eating 40 grams (about four squares of a large bar) of dark chocolate made from 75 percent cocoa each day for two weeks reduced levels of stress hormones in healthy adults. Scientists suspect that antioxidants help balance body chemistry.
- Ingest Some Beneficial Bugs : A French study found that people took a daily probiotic supplement contains bacteria, including lactobacillus helveticus, reported 50 per cent less depression and anxiety after 30 days. Choose a supplement that provide about 4 billion bacteria (it should be indicated on the packaging).
- Set The Table : When you dine in a pleasant Environment, you naturally feel more relaxed. As a result, you’re better able to really focus on your food, which prevents overeating. So sit at the dining room table (not in front of your TV computer), break out the good china and silverware, and light some candles. Remind yourself to eat slowly and savor every bite.
- Pull Out Those Trophies : Or recall your successful presentation at last year’s sales conference. Thinking about how you achieved a goal helps you recapture the emotional high from that accomplishment. That in turn makes you more optimistic, so you’ll be able to cope with adversity in healthier ways, according to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
- Schedule A Worry Session : It might sound counterintuitive, but setting aside half an hour in the early evening to fret about everything that’s nagging at you (plan to jot down a quick list along with some possible solutions) actually helps you sleep better and fret less the next day. “By consolidating your anxiety, you reduce the wear-and-tear effect”. That means you won’t have elevated levels of stress hormones coursing through your body all day long.
- Jump For Joy : Remember how much fun you had bouncing around on the bed as a kid? Relieve that playful sensation and you’ll feel better in a snap. Even just hopping up and down in your office (door closed, of course!) will release tension, helping you mentally prepare for the next curve ball that surely will get thrown your way.